Last year at the Baltimore Fiddle Fair there was a captivating Saturday afternoon concert in the sundrenched Dun Na Sead Castle overlooking the harbor.
Considering the historic site went back to the 13th century and one of the instruments was the national symbol of Ireland, the harp, it was notable for that alone.
But even more memorable was the superb dual playing of harpist Laoise Kelly and fiddler Michelle O’Brien on the day which touched me as much if not more than other of the other concerts on the weekend as it was all the more haunting in the main hall of the restored castle.
In my mind, I was sorry that I hadn’t asked for permission to record it that day because the pairing was so magical and well matched, but Kelly and O’Brien mentioned later that a recording was in the offing.
So it was with great delight that while Kelly was over recently for the show Peter and Wendy that she thought to mail me a copy of the new CD that she and O’Brien produced early this year.
Called The Wishing Well, it is actually a recording of a live performance at the Dock in Carrick on Shannon in Leitrim last October, so it conveys that extra bit of adrenalin and spark that makes their appearances together so exceptional.
That concert was aired online on Livetrad.com and I remember viewing it at the time, still hopeful that a recording would ensue from the talented tandem. And so it has on their own label (www.laoisekelly.ie) containing 11 gorgeous tracks with one of the finest harp and fiddle musical conversations you are likely to hear anywhere.
Kelly, who hails from Westport, Co. Mayo, is already recognized as one of Ireland’s foremost harpers with two solo harp recordings, the latest, Ceis, released last summer just after her well-received appearance at the Catskills Irish Arts Week.
O’Brien is another one of the talented music students to come out Frank Custy’s Toonagh primary school in Clare whose fiddle-playing later came under the further tutelage and sway of the iconic Donegal fiddler Tommy Peoples and his daughter Siobhan who lived nearby in Kilfenora.
O’Brien moved to Dublin and played in epic band called Providence and also did a tour with the Bumblebees where she met with Kelly, one of its founding members, and they maintained a close relationship.
There is a style and attack to their playing as individuals that matches up very well in their playing together, resulting in a beautiful and graceful recording that will appeal to both the serious traditional music fan and the casual listener. You’ll feel like a king or a queen in your own castle when you listen to the CD and relish the sensitive and soulful pair and a great selection of tunes.
You can sample their playing online at www.Livetrad.com where their Leitrim gig has some excerpts archived in their vault. To order it you can get it from OssianUsa.com and also from Custy’s Music Shop or the Claddagh Music Shop in Ireland.